WATCH: The CIA and Julian Assange

Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson told the Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney the very C.I.A. that plotted to kill the WikiLeaks publisher also would have a major say in the conditions of his imprisonment if he is convicted in the U.S.


Progressive International Belmarsh Tribunal, Great Hall, Sydney University.


I am delighted to be joining you for this Belmarsh Tribunal in Australia and I am sorry I cannot be home to join you all in person. A huge thank you to Progressive International for their work around the world, including for this important initiative to raise awareness about the persecution of Julian Assange.

As Julian’s counsel, I have been asked to address you briefly about (1) the U.S. indictment and the threat it poses to free speech; (2) the extradition case and where we are with Julian’s appeal; (3) the abuse of process we have seen in this case.

The Indictment

Julian faces 175 years in prison for committing acts of journalism and for the very same publications for which he has won awards the world over – including the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism and the Sydney Peace Prize Medal.

The indictment includes 17 separate counts under the Espionage Act for receipt, possession and publication of information.

As The New York Times and Washington Post have made clear, the indictment criminalises public interest journalism. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has called it the most terrifying threat to free speech in the 21st century.

And it is.

The Extradition Case

On the extradition case: in short, we are playing a waiting game.

Julian won his case in January 2021. The evidence before the court was that, if extradited to the U.S., he would be placed under prison conditions known as Special Administrative Measures – or SAMs. This has been described as the darkest black hole of the U.S. prison system. The magistrate ruled that Julian’s extradition would be oppressive because the medical evidence shows that if extradited and placed under SAMs, he would suicide. So she barred his extradition.

But the Trump administration appealed – and in its last days, sought to get around the court decision and shift the goal posts by offering an assurance that Julian would not be placed under SAMs.

As Amnesty International has said, U.S. assurances aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

But in Julian’s case it’s even worse that that because the U.S. assurance was conditional: the U.S. only promised not to place him under SAMs unless they decide he later deserves it.

And who would decide? The C.I.A.  And he would have no right to appeal their decision.

As many of you will remember, we learned through important investigative journalism that the C.I.A. had planned to kidnap and kill Julian.

And this is the intelligence agency which has the power to place Julian, once extradited to the U.S., under prison conditions that doctors say would cause his suicide.

But the British courts accepted the U.S. assurance – without Julian having the opportunity to contest that assurance with evidence at trial – and in June last year the Home Secretary ordered his extradition.

An appeal was filed in August, but we are yet to hear from the High Court on whether he will be granted permission to appeal.

And we have no idea when that decision will come. It could be tomorrow, it could be in months.

All the while Julian languishes in Belmarsh prison, having already served longer in prison than U.S. prosecutors claim he will serve if he is extradited to the U.S.

Abuse of Process

The organisers asked me to address why due process isn’t working and why case should never have started in the first place.

Let me take these points in inverse order.

This case should never have started. Since 2010 I have been saying, like a broken record, that the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange will set a dangerous precedent that will be used to criminalise the rest of the media.

The Obama administration opened the investigation, but chose not to prosecute because of the “New York Times problem” – the exact problem we had warned of – because you cannot distinguish between what Julian does and what The New York Times does.

Trump had no such qualms. And it became clear he would use the precedent against the rest of the media – which he called “the enemy of the people”.

But now Biden continues the prosecution, despite it being in violation of his own policy on not prosecuting the media.

So there are principled, free speech reasons why this case should never have been pursued – and should be ended immediately.

But it gets worse.

Leaving aside the free speech concerns, the due process violations should stop the case in its tracks. The abuse of process in Julian’s case is far worse than anything we saw in the prosecution of the Pentagon Papers whistle-blower, Dan Ellsberg, under the Nixon administration. In Dan’s case, the prosecution was thrown out with prejudice because government officials broke into his psychiatrist’s office.

In Julian’s case, he has been spied on, his medical appointments have been spied on and his meetings with us as his lawyers have been spied on, and legally privileged material has been seized. As Dan himself said in evidence in Julian’s extradition challenge, what Julian has faced is far worse than the abuse of process he faced.

In my opinion, we should all be asking ourselves this question: if the abuse that took place under Nixon was enough to have the prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg thrown out in the 1970s, then what does it say about our democracy in 2023 if the prosecution of Julian continues?

To conclude, I want to recognise and pay tribute to Dan Ellsberg – a deeply principled whistleblower and anti-war campaigner, who risked everything to ensure the public had information they needed about the Vietnam War – and helped to bring that hopeless war to an end. With his moral authority, Dan has been one of the most important advocates for Julian and I cannot thank him enough for his work. He has just been told he has 6 months to live and has shared that news with characteristic courage and dignity. He continues to inspire me. And he will leave this life as a hero.

As Dan himself said in Julian’s extradition proceedings, history will reflect. Dan explained that he was vilified after leaking the Pentagon Papers and that it was only many years later – and today – that he is recognised as a hero. He believes Julian has been vilified, just as he was, and that history will remember Julian as a hero too.

But how will history reflect on the fact Julian has now spent almost 13 years under restrictions on his liberty?

The answer is not well.

So let’s all do everything we can to ensure his freedom.

Thank you all for doing what you can and for being here today.


The Belmarsh Tribunal was hosted by Mary Kostakidis & Mark Davis; organised by Progressive International & Wau Holland foundation and co-sponsored by the Search Foundation, Jacobin, PEN Sydney, PEN International, Declassified Australia, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Consortium News & The Walkley Foundation.

6 comments for “WATCH: The CIA and Julian Assange

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    March 10, 2023 at 11:10

    To how many years would the US be condemned for all the killing it has carried out???

  2. Elsa Collins
    March 10, 2023 at 11:06

    A big thank you! from the bottom of my heart for everyone is working so hard to get the freedom of our journalist, our publisher , our
    great hero Julian Assange. His freedom is our freedom, the freedom of the press, the freedom of the truth, the freedom to our children,
    the freedom to every media outlet, especially to our independent, alternative media.
    We can not leave a world to our children, where governments abuse the rule of law with impunity! where telling the the truth has become a crime! This is a political case and we know by fact, some governments, judiciary systems and so called intelligence organisations, like the CIA are totally corrupt, this is a political case, is an historic battle and must be fight in the streets, in the public opinion, educating people with the facts and the truth and we must fight to win or our children will be next
    A big thank you! for our great advocate for our Julian Assange, for the truth, to our wonderful hero Daniel Ellsberg. I pray to God, Daniel do not feel any pain and let him to live many years with us, healthy and surrounded with tender love.

    • Mike
      March 11, 2023 at 17:50

      Thank you so much for your continued support of Julian. The US judicial system is a joke as it has devolved into just another part of our government run by neocons with little regard for our freedoms. I also applaud Mr. Ellsberg for his courage in bringing down the Nixon administration for its illegal actions. Today we have Mr. Biden who may develop the courage to end the persecution of Mr. Assange in the name of free speech. We need all journalists and their newspapers/online services to speak out in support of Julian. They need to display their courage to support free speech and all courageous whistleblowers everywhere.

  3. March 10, 2023 at 01:25

    I have been convinced for a very long time his detention and persecution is a perpetual show trial to intimidate other journalists into silence. Unless there is a powerful intervention he is going to spend the rest of his life behind bars. His situation is not just about him but an indictment of the pathetic state of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the West.

  4. CaseyG
    March 9, 2023 at 13:19

    Julian Assange is a truth teller. Unfortunately the government of the United States is not. In fact many government agencies that are said to speak of truth and freedom—-are not at all truthful, nor have anything to do with freedom.
    Bush the second had his lies and seems to have gotten away with everything. Julian Assange speaks for all who value truth—-but sadly those like Biden, Blinken and Nuland don’t seem to care about either truth or justice.

    I am left without valuing America, but there is still Shakespeare to aspire to. And so, United States government : “Speak the truth , I pray thee, trippingly on the tongue.”

  5. March 9, 2023 at 06:38

    Interested in Julian Assange, the CIA and espionage? Do read the epic spy novel, Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription in TheBurlingtonFiles series. He worked for the CIA and was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6 (see the brief News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website). The thriller is the stuff memorable films are made of, raw, realistic yet punchy, pacy and provocative; a super read as long as you don’t expect John le Carré’s delicate diction, sophisticated syntax and placid plots. It’s a fact based book which follows the real life of a real spy, Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington who worked for British Intelligence, the CIA et al. It’s like nothing we have ever come across before … and TheBurlingtonFiles website is as breathtaking as a compelling thriller. It’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti.

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